The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is demanding extra funding for postnatal check-ups so that all new mothers with mental health problems get the treatment they need after research found that over half of new mothers' mental health problems don't get picked up.
The charity wants all new mothers to have a full appointment for their six week postnatal check, including a supportive conversation about their mental health.
It surveyed 1,000 women who had recently had a baby and found that many of these new mothers said they were too embarrassed or afraid of judgement to seek help and 95% of mothers who had a mental health problem said that this had an impact on their ability to cope as a mother or on their family.
In the report, the NCT said that the challenges of caring for a new baby are hard enough to tackle when you are emotionally strong. Doing so when your emotional reserves are depleted is even harder.
It added: "This “hidden half” struggle on alone, often afraid to reach out for help or unaware that it is available. Some women feel they have to hide their problems because they see them as a sign of failure or out of fear of having their baby taken away. Some are dismissed by health professionals who see their problems as the “baby blues”.
New mothers need to feel comfortable discussing issues with their GP
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said she hopes that the call for extra funding is given serious consideration by the Government so that GPs can continue to give all of their patients, including new mothers, the care they need and deserve.
She said: “Having a baby is usually a very special time but it can lead to a whole host of physical and mental health concerns for new mothers, and it’s essential they feel comfortable discussing these with their GP and other healthcare professionals, and that they receive the appropriate support.
“The routine six-week postnatal check, usually offered to all new mothers in addition to the formal health check of their newborn baby, should be a time for the GP to be able to talk to women about issues affecting their mental and physical health and wellbeing and take steps to address them. But, even though six-week checks are generally longer than the standard 10-minute appointment, it is still incredibly hard for GPs to explore all the different factors potentially affecting a new mother’s health within the time constraints – particularly at a time when general practice is facing intense resource and workforce pressures."